Whenever Colette Scotton struggled to juggle her nursing studies with the demands of being a mother and grandmother, she simply said to herself: “I can, I will.”
Whenever law student and mother of two Barbara Mensah tired of getting up at 3am to write her assignments, she resolved inwardly: “I can, I will.”
Whenever Gyon Kerowgodage strived to overcome the shyness and lack of confidence that was impeding his progress in his business management course, he repeated the mantra: “I can, I will.”
These three students from Waltham Forest College were among those who showed the perseverance and determination required to earn the right to don cap and gown at a graduation ceremony.
Approximately 100 graduates of degree-level Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma and Access to Higher Education courses attended the graduation ceremony held at St Mary’s Church in Walthamstow.
Penny Wycherley, the College’s Principal, praised the students’ dedication and tenacity. She told them: “I can, I will has become our message and I hope it has become part of your DNA.
“I know that you have worked hard to get where you are today and I know it has been about teamwork.
“When you were stressed by what you were doing, you have had the support of your family and friends and staff here at the College to pull you through.”
Colette Scotton completed an HNC course in Health and Social Care at the College and is now studying for a degree in nursing at Anglia Ruskin University.
She concurred: “There have been lots of tears and tantrums along the way. I am a single mother and my three children have supported and inspired me.
“I have worked as a home carer and was a midwifery assistant for six years, but my dream has always been to be a nurse.
“Although I am a grandmother, I still hope to have more than 20 years working in nursing. That is more than enough time to get into my career and enjoy it.”
She said that she left school at 16 with few qualifications and it was not an easy decision to return to the classroom as a mature student.
“For me, that was an achievement in itself,” she said. “I had a tough time at school and never liked it. I had dyslexia and a hearing problem, but that has only now been diagnosed.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be wearing mortar board and gown at a graduation ceremony.”
Barbara Mensah combined a part time job with her studies while at the same time caring for her two children aged one and three.
Her success in her Access to Law course has enabled her to win a place at Anglia Ruskin University to study law.
“I had to work two days a week to support myself and combining that with studying and looking after my two young children was a real juggling act” she added.
“I had to get up at three in the morning to study. It was crazy but once I started I couldn’t back out and thankfully I made it through.”
Why did she put herself through so much? She answered: “I just wanted more out of life and felt I had so much more to give. Doing this course brought out a dream in me that I thought was dead.”
Gyon Kerowgodage has several interviews lined up for jobs in the United Arab Emirates, having completed his HND in Business Management.
The 23-year-old said: “The two years I spent at Waltham Forest College changed me a lot. I was very shy and didn’t like to talk much. I did not like giving presentations and attending meetings.
“I am now much more independent, confident and more open minded. And it was the teachers here that helped me to gain that confidence.”
In total 355 students who completed higher education courses in the last academic year are now studying at universities around the country on degree courses ranging from Criminology to Mental Health Nursing.
Paul Butler, the College’s Chair of Governors, congratulated the graduates on their achievements which he described as “resulting from long hours of hard work and sacrifice”.
He said: “Many of you have had to balance your lives with work and family obligations, while at the same time committing to the reading, writing, research and classroom studies to complete your coursework.
“This is a great testament to your dedication and commitment in the next stage of your journey and future careers.”
The graduates were presented with their certificates by Elaine Colquhoun, OBE, Executive Principal of Whitefield Academy Trust.